States of Consciousness. Free Essay Example

Published: 2024-01-14
States of Consciousness. Free Essay Example
Essay type:  Evaluation essays
Categories:  Intelligence Consciousness Emotional intelligence
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1459 words
13 min read

The notion of "states of consciousness" has been in existence for quite a long time now. Over a century now, the said notion has been examined by several theorists, said William James, who focused on the ego, spiritual, mental, and physical selves, and Sigmund Freud, who focused on the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. Moreover, other proposals related to the notion of consciousness and its various states and stages have been offered from then, and they include Rosenthal, Natsoulas (1983), Nagel, Block (1995), and Armstrong. People worldwide's livelihoods involve dramatic, continuous changes in the extent to which people are aware of their surroundings and their internal statuses (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020). It is true that when human beings are awake, they are usually aware of the things going on within their surroundings and that they are often alert on the most important ones. However, such experiences and situations change dramatically while humans are in deep slumber and experiencing dreams (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020).

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Furthermore, some people experience varying degrees of consciousness through alcohol consumption, hypnosis, meditation, and other drugs (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020). This paper is aimed at discussing various states of consciousness, particularly focusing on sleep and stages of sleep. In this case, various sleep stages will be highlighted; a description of different sleep disorders will be given in brief. The paper will close by discussing various states of consciousness (altered) that emerge from meditation, hypnosis, and psychoactive drugs.

Definition of Consciousness

Consciousness can be defined as that which describes people's awareness of both external and internal stimuli. Internal stimuli include being aware of individuals' emotions and thoughts and feelings such as sleepiness, thirst, hunger, and pain (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020). On the other hand, external stimuli involve being aware of experiences like, for instance, hearing a friend's voice, feeling a room's warmth, and seeing the sun's light (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020).

People usually experience various states or degrees of consciousness and various self-awareness stages in their daily lives (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020). Also, consciousness can be described as a continuum ranging from full awareness to deep slumber or, rather, sleep. In such a case, sleep is defined as a state involved with reduced sensory awareness and low levels of physical activity different from rest times during the periods that people are awake. The periods during which humans are awake or wakeful involve high behavior, thought, and sensory awareness levels. However, away from being asleep and wakefulness, multiple other states of consciousness do exist that people usually experience in their daily lives. The other consciousness states include unconsciousness, intoxication, and daydreaming due to anesthesia (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020).

Moreover, people might experience unconscious states of being through substance-induced anesthesia for medical attention (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020). Usually, human beings are not fully aware of their surroundings, even during periods of wakefulness. A good case of the description of consciousness is when one dreams while driving from work to home. In this case, the individual will be involved in the complex activities of operating their car even without their awareness of doing the same. Multiple such experiences involve people's psychological behaviors are biologically driven (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020).

Theory Behind Consciousness

Various terminologies and models that describe the states of consciousness have been developed in recent years, such as minimal, recursive, extended, core, primary, and reflective consciousness. Definition and description of the theory behind consciousness are desirable (Natsoulas, 1983). The emergence of the new trends in the states of consciousness is a confusing one (Antony, 2006). It is established that some of the emerging theorists do not describe their models with many references to the existing views but rather base their models on their feelings, thoughts, emotions, and views. As a result of such an approach, they create more confusion with their redundant views, which adds unnecessary complexity to the already complex issues and views.

In formulating this paper's theoretical framework and so background that contrasts and integrates the current states of consciousness proposals, much focus will be put on the distinction raised by Mead (1934) in the first place, then followed by Wicklund & Duval (1972), which was between focusing attention inward toward the self-awareness (self) and outward toward consciousness (the environment). The theoretical framework is a popular one in experimental personality and social psychology. It has given guidance to empirical research for over three decades now; reviews also include (Duval & Silvia and Carver). The most important, appealing quality that the framework does possess is parsimony. It is established that while directing attention towards someone or an organism, either inwards or outwards, the individual or organism must first be awake. Otherwise, unconsciousness is the term used to describe the state upon which there is no processed information, whether from the self or the environment. Therefore, good examples of the state of unconsciousness include rest or rather asleep and coma. During someone's wakefulness, it is said that they are awake & conscious. Therefore, they can process information from their surroundings as well as capable of responding to stimuli. In such a state, the individual or organism can directly experience thoughts, sensations, perceptions, and many other psychological experiences; this will occur without the individual or organism being aware that such mental and perceptual events are occurring. In such a case, the organism or individual will be completely immersed in the experience, an unreflective actor in the organism's or individual's environment. In such a perspective, many individuals or organisms do possess or rather are said to have consciousness.

People, or rather human beings, usually spend a lot of their time in states of consciousness. They interact with other persons and objects, thinking, walking, and coherently talking without really monitoring such events. One would argue that Block's perspective or concept involving phenomenal consciousness represents consciousness through its definition. Block's concept involves what it feels like to experience mental events in response to the external stimuli, for instance, experiencing pain, tasting, smelling, and seeing. External awareness, in this case, involves the environment rather than the self (internal stimuli). Thus, much emphasis is put on the environment while defining consciousness. Correspondingly, it means that little self or rather internal stimuli with less self-consciousness are needed for an organism or individual to move in & interact with the environment (external stimuli). According to Fink & Vogely (2003), it has been termed as emotional perceptiveness or first-person perspective, which involves implicit and diffuse individual awareness that allows articulative spatial self-awareness or navigation (self).

In this case, self-awareness involves the capacity or the capability to become the object of an individual's or organism's attention. Such usually occurs when an organism or individual focuses on internal stimuli rather than external stimuli. One can process their self-information and therefore said to be a reflective observer. In the same case, the organism or individual realizes that they are awake. They can now experience particular mental activities or events, possess unique characters or behaviors, and emit similar behavior.

In this case, sleep is broken down into two distinct phases, that is, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) or (non-REM) sleep (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020). REM involves the darting movements of the eye under closed eyelids. Thus, REM is associated with wakefulness. NREM is further divided into four stages, differentiated from each other & from REM through the nature of brain waves. The first three stages are NREM, while the final one is the REM sleep stage (“Chapter 4: States of Consciousness”, 2020).


The attempts to reduce and minimize the rising levels of confusion related to the emergence of new models and terminologies that describe different states of consciousness and self-awareness need a well-elaborated theoretical framework, which is then described through a social model and the personality of an individual or organism. From the facts stated in this paper, it is relevant to state that although the current literature reviews on consciousness are not exhaustive, they should at least take into account the already-existing views and facts (previous literature) to avoid addition(s) of unnecessary complexity to already complex views and problems.


Antony, M. (2006). Concepts of Consciousness, Kinds of Consciousness, meanings of Consciousness (pp. 1-16). Philosophical Studies.

Natsoulas, T. (1983). Concepts of Consciousness (pp. 13-59). The Journal of Mind and Behavior.

Fink, & Vogely. (2003). Neural Correlates for First-Person Perspective (pp. 38-42). Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Block, N. (1995). On a Confusion about a Function of Consciousness (pp. 227-247). Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Wicklund, & Gollwitzer. (1987). The Fallacy of the Private-Public Self-Focus Distinction (pp. 491-523). Journal of Personality.

Mead, G. (1934). Mind, Self, and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wicklund, & Duval. (1972). A theory of Objective Self-Awareness. New York: Academic Press.

Chapter 4: States of Consciousness. (2020).

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